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Tarot Reflections

January 17, 2005

Review: Taking the Tarot to Heart
Tracy Hite, ATA Treasurer, Networks Manager

Tracy began her own Tarot journey while recovering from her first son's birth on New Year's Eve, 1996. She tried to study on her own for nearly a year, picking up what she could from books and websites, but she had a lot of trouble piecing everything together. Through membership in  the American Tarot Association, she met the contacts and gained the expertise needed to gain her certification as a Certified Tarot Master.

Tracy is honored to serve as Manager for both the Free Reading Network and the Free Tarot Network. She also volunteers as Treasurer of the ATA and webmaster of the Comparative Tarot site.


In my job as Manager of the Free Tarot and Free Reading Networks I’ve seen a lot of clients from all over the globe seeking the Tarot’s advice on love and romance. More than anything else they want to know when they’ll meet their soulmate, if a particular someone is interested in them or cheating on them, or if their ex-partner will come back soon. Whether you’re lonely and looking for love or looking to improve an existing relationship, an experienced reader or someone who (until now) had avoided “those cards”, Taking the Tarot to Heart is a great resource.

As McElroy mentions in his Author’s Notes, some terminology choices are deliberately used throughout the book. He refers to the cards as Trumps or Pips rather than Major or Minor Arcana, and uses Coins in most instances rather than Pentacles. To me it seemed a little forced at times, as if he were trying too hard to avoid even a hint of mysticism. (Apparently “magic” Wands are okay, though.)


Taking the Tarot to Heart
by Mark McElroy
published by Llewellyn
ISBN 0-7387-0536-5

On the other hand, Mark’s choice of Partner to describe anyone in any kind of relationship comes across as entirely natural. As he explains:

“In the end, though, the term partner solves many problems. Partner is quick, simple, and gender-neutral. I also like the way partner implies shared responsibility and equality … essential elements in a healthy relationship.”

Despite the title the primary target audience seems to be non-readers, often trying to sell them on Tarot’s usefulness for as a personal empowerment tool. (This approach made more sense to me in Mark’s first book, Putting the Tarot to Work, which is obviously aimed at a corporate environment.) Unless they’re already at least curious about Tarot, I doubt many folks seeking romantic self-help are going to swing by the New Age section at their local bookstore to pick this one up. They’ll be missing out on some handy and practical tools presented with a wonderful sense of humor.

Mark starts with an example of how visual brainstorming works, using an image to spark multiple date ideas. He then advises readers to take charge of their own romantic destiny. Chapter Three again sells tarot as the perfect brainstorming tool by making it sound like an ideal partner. (Love that sense of humor!) He also responds to objections from folks who think Tarot is evil or just for fortune telling. One of my favorite passages in the entire book, echoing my own philosophy, comes at the end of this chapter:

“ Ultimately, the Tarot amounts to seventy-eight pieces of laminated cardboard. If you want to use them as coasters or bookmarks, you can! Their real value, though, becomes quickly apparent when used as a portable, approachable source of great ideas for action.”

Once McElroy has convinced readers to accept Tarot as a romantic self-help tool, he gives a brief mystic-free history of the cards and the parts of a deck. Mark explains what a spread is and how it works with the cards to make a reading, and offers humorous considerations for choosing a deck. He then suggests games to get you comfortable with your deck. The “Love Notes” game, for instance, asks you to try communicating several messages using cards alone.

Chapter six takes you step by step through the process of reading the cards, from forming the question and choosing or creating a spread, through shuffling, dealing and interpreting the cards’ message. This section is a great how-to guide for Tarot novices. By asking expert readers to stop and think about what’s long since become second nature, Mark helps them to hone their techniques and enables them to teach it to others. Once he’s covered these basics Mark introduces his brainstorming Power Tools – the single card reading, speed reading, and WWTD. (What Would the Trumps Do?)

And speaking of Trumps, the next chapter encourages readers to use the Trumps for form their own personal romantic profile. As he puts it, “After all, of the people in your relationship, you’re the only one you really control!” The brief descriptions given for each card lean heavily toward the book’s theme, of course. He also presents several probing questions related to each one. The Hermit asks “When are you lonely?” while the Star wonders “How comfortable are you with your body?”

The bulk of Taking the Tarot to Heart gives plenty of spreads addressing various questions for singles and for couples. Not sure what kind of person you really want to meet? There’s a spread to examine eight traits of your perfect partner. Just had a break-up? There’s one to help you heal and move on. Wondering how to get that spark back in the bedroom? There’s a spread for that too. Each spread is shown as a reading for someone (or a pair) in that situation, demonstrating how it works to address each question. These spreads may seem a little challenging for beginners at first but not overly so, working their way up in complexity.

When it comes to relationship questions I sometimes have trouble identifying with my clients’ problems; my first and only love is still going strong after nearly twenty years. Now, thanks to Taking the Tarot to Heart, I can finally understand these situations – and I have a lot more tools to help people improve their love lives.

Join the Book Launch party on January 29th, noon to 2pm, at New Vibrations in Jackson, Mississippi. Call 601-981-1153 for details.

Mark McElroy will be doing Readings for Couples, Lovers, and Singles at the Phoenix and Dragon Bookstore in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 11th at 7pm. For more info call 404-255-5207.


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Tarot Reflections is a publication of the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2005
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